Youth sport: problems and solutions

Youth sport is becoming a great problem and an article published in the magazine of US Olympic Committee helps to understand what might be the reasons and proposals for solutions. I wrote in a short summary but the  article by Christine M. Brooks (Summer 2016) is certainly wider and interesting to read.

  • There is a high pediatric dropout rate from sports (between 2008 and 2013 there were 2.6 million fewer six to twelve year-old kids participating the six traditional sports).
  • Coaches are using higher training intensities at younger ages than ever before possibly causing long-term harm to young athletes (the LTAD model attempts to guide coaches about the appropriate training for children who are at different maturational phases).
  • There is an increase in childhood obesity and subsequent health problems (in the United States, 17 to 31 percent of children and adolescents are obese).
  • The principle of enjoyment embraces Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s notion of ‘FLOW,’ that in turn, explains why individuals enjoy an activity. Approximately 40 percent of pediatric athletes in one survey claim they dropped out of sports because they were not having fun. The coaching goal is to train athletes in small, manageable learning steps so they remain in the zone of FLOW. Research indicates that educated coaches lower kids’ anxiety levels and lift their self-esteem.
  • The principle of striving for improvement involves enticing young athletes to constantly strive for the upper limits of their genetic potential while concurrently keeping them in FLOW. If they are out of ‘FLOW,’ it is theoretically impossible to motivate ongoing practice and striving, and therefore progress toward full genetic potential will be blunted.
  • The principle of appropriate training goes hand-in-hand with the child’s growth and maturation. The LTAD model attempts to match structural growth and maturation to the appropriate motor skill complexity and intensity of physical training.
  • The principle of doing no harm is at the basis of coaching. Four million school-age children in the US are injured while playing sports every year. The reason can partly be attributed to stressing a body that has immature balance and coordination beyond its capacity.

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